Bad Day: Not So Normal Half Marathon Race Report

“Sometimes the system goes on the blink
And the whole thing turns out wrong
You might not make it back and you know
That you could be well oh that strong
And I’m not wrong

Cause you had a bad day…” – Bad Day, Daniel Powter

Warning: This is going to be an entire post about First World running problems. I realize that I choose to do this to myself and that some people around the world have to walk the distance of a marathon every day just to get clean water.  The thing is, it just stresses me out, because I know my body can do this and, do it well but, things just have not gone according to plan during the last two races. Y’all know I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan! It also scares me for the Ironman 70.3, which is coming up on May 31. I was using the Not So Normal race as a training run for the Ironman relay so, the fact that the wheels came off the bus, makes me really worried. When a training run does not go well, it makes me think the race will not go well, either. Did I mention that fatalism is one of my flaws (hey, when the zombies come, everyone in my family will be happy that we have lots of bottled water and that I learned how to kill zombies from watching every episode of The Walking Dead)?

About the race: this was the first official half marathon to be held in Carrboro. It was a great hometown location with a 5K and 10K, as well. Carly ran the 5K all by herself while I was out on the course, which makes me immensely proud. She also picked out her running outfit (love the shirt – wish I could get away with it). A running buddy of mine from Fleet Feet was the race director. I think he did a great job organizing the race and making for a fun event. I agreed to be a Ringleader – meaning I was out on the course making sure everyone and everything was OK. The course itself was pretty brutal. Carrboro tends to be pretty flat but I think he managed to find every major hill in the tiny little city limits and run us up it. I do a significant number of my training runs in town and I, for the most part, avoid the hills he ran us up unless it is Hill Repeat Day and I am intentionally looking for hills. Also, the course was not properly marked, which means some of the people running the race ran 13.4 miles and some of us might not have gotten to 13.1. I was having such a bad run, I don’t even care if I did not make it to 13.1! I also was so addled (read: trying not to puke in front of all the spectators) after I crossed the finish that I forgot to turn off my Garmin as I wandered around the Fleet Feet parking lot for 10 minutes so, I have no idea how far I did or did not actually run/walk. It doesn’t matter and it was still a lot of fun but I think I will volunteer next year and not run. Mid-May in North Carolina is a crap shoot from a weather perspective but the default is usually that it is too hot for my liking to race.

IMG_2913 Carly, looking fly.

So, what was so bad, you ask?

1. My clothing. I was wearing the Ringleader shirt which just was not cut for a chunky runner girl (see, Exhibit A, below). It was super cute and I loved the color but the darts and the seams and the non-wickiness of the shirt just make me hotter than I wanted to be. It was clinging to me before the race started and, if I had not been in my hometown, I might have stripped it off and run in my sports bra but, because I knew a significant number of spectators, I spared y’all.  For the record, it looked super cute on all the other ladies so, clearly, the problem was me and my non-traditional runner body. See, First World, problem? Y’all know I am super-picky about my running clothes because I HATE TO BE HOT. Shit needs to breathe or I am not wearing it.

IMG_2907 copyHeather, looking cute and volunteering. Me, not so much.

2. My hydration pack. I am now using Tailwind, exclusively, on my long runs which is a mildly flavored electrolyte mix dissolved in water. In a nutshell, it does not make me puke so it gets to be the winner. The downside is that I have to take a lot of liquid and that requires some sort of pack, which I hate wearing. I really just want people to stand on the side of the road and give me bottles full of Tailwind while I am running like some sort of elite runner or something. Since that is not going to happen, I am forced to experiment with all different packs. My latest pack is the Orange Mud HydraQuiver. I like it because it has a full size bottle instead of the bladder and the tube, which I find kind of gross. I hate it, now, because the damn thing is just not adjustable enough, hence, the chafing on my neck. Let me just tell you that raw skin and salty sweat makes for a miserable combination for 9 miles (I realized my neck was raw at mile 4). Much like rubbing salt in a wound, haha. I ordered a new pack yesterday so I can write about how much I hate it, too, after a few marathon training runs.

1F628E81-3E26-46B2-8FB7-92F660986400 See how high the pack rides (and how badly that shirt fit)? See how good I am at faking that I am having a good time when, really, I feel like shit?

3. Pace. Or lack thereof. Mine and Sissy’s mile splits were all over the map. The graph looks like an EKG readout of someone with a serious heart condition. We went out too fast (shocker) laying down 10 minute splits, only to slow ourselves down to 11 minute splits (still too fast for the heat) only to end up with 13 minute splits when I was forced to walk or risk passing out. I must nail this pacing thing once and for all. Here is where I think intervals would have helped. Intervals force you to slow down and pace yourself. Should have run them yesterday but I always think I know myself better on race day than I actually do.

4. Pollen. The trees have been trying to kill me since the middle of April. I am fiercely allergic to hardwood tree pollen and the trees have been spitting it out in record amounts this year. Yesterday (as is today) was a red alert pollen day meaning, stay inside with the air conditioning if you are allergic to tree pollen. Instead, I chose to be outside for 4 hours. Breathing is kind of essential to running. Today, I am paying the price with eyes that were so swollen this morning, I had to put packs of frozen peas on them just to get my contacts in.

5. HEAT. It was hot and muggy. If marathon training in the middle of a hot Southern summer taught me anything, it should have taught me that I need to take it easy in the heat. Apparently, I am a slow learner. Around mile 6 is where I really started to think “Man, it is really, really hot”. Sissy and I were not having a good run and were having trouble getting in a groove.  Sissy NEVER walks. She was taking some walk breaks so I knew it was bad. At about mile 9, I started to feel a little dizzy. Not the “I’ve ingested too much runner food and I might puke” woozy (which I am very familiar with) but the “I would kill someone for some air conditioning or an ice bath right now before I pass out” dizzy. Sane people would stop exercising, at this point, but runners who have never DNF’d a race are not sane people and keep moving forward. The walk breaks got longer and longer. At mile 11, I started to have chills. I thought to myself “Wow, how can I be cold when I am so f#$king hot?” but I kept trying to run. My arms, hands and feet started to swell and I had to loosen my Garmin because it became too tight. At about mile 11.5, after experiencing sudden stomach cramps and then, leg cramps, it occurred to me that I might just need to walk and find as much shade as possible or risk some health issues because I felt horrible. I think the walking is what saved me and cooled me down enough to finish. I managed to move along at a brisk walk until I hit mile 12.5, at which point I started to run, again. I ran to the finish but it was not much of a run and, I was pretty sure I was going to puke but, I made it across in my second-to-worst finishing time, EVER. I felt so bad, I did not even drink the free beer so y’all know I was not myself.

IMG_2909 After my “recovery” which was really just standing in the shade for about 15 minutes.

I googled all of these issues last night because the best medical advice comes from the internet.   After Ironman last year and my hyponatremia fun, I have learned to electrolyte load before a race so I don’t think that was it. I had the Tailwind in 24 ounces of water, the majority of which, I consumed so, I don’t really think it was dehydration or low blood sugar, either. Some form of heat exhaustion? Likely. I was really hot and probably not acclimated to the heat because I’ve been having to run inside due to the pollen and my asthma. So, if Mother Nature could turn down the heat and lay off the pollen when I hit the course at mid-day for Iromman 70.3, perhaps, the wheels will stay on the bus, this time, and I won’t feel like the Staypuft Marshmallow man (from all the hyponatremia swelling), lumbering down Hillsborough Street, laying waste to NC State’s campus, which is what I looked like last year. I realize all this sounds crazy but I do listen to my body when the wheels start to come off the bus, and, while I usually refuse to quit, if it got really bad, I would quit and I do make game time decisions while out there. I don’t have so much pride that I won’t walk, really slowly, or even sit down, if I have to.

If you’ve made it this far into my post, congratulations, and if you have had any experience combating any of these things (not the clothing issue – I gotta work that one out on my own), I would love to hear some advice!